Earwig and the Witch
There are bound to be high expectations surrounding the release of a new Studio Ghibli production as all movie lovers have come to associate the Japanese name with magical storytelling and first-class visual art. The use of CGI instead of their distinctive 2D animation gives Earwig and the Witch a very different feel from the dreamy atmospheres of classics such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle – and this is one of the reasons why Ghibli fans may not warm up to it.
Based on the children’s book by Diana Wynn Jones, Earwig and the Witch is the story of a girl named Earwig – or Erika – who is left at an orphanage as an infant. Erika wins the love of the institution’s matron as well as the admiration of all the other children and staff. She has a talent for always getting her way, but when an evil looking couple decide to adopt her, she is forced to comply to their orders. Her foster mother, Bella Yaga, immediately confesses that she is a witch in need of a helper, hence the adoption. The man of the house, the sinister Mandrake, stays aloof and makes it clear that he must not be disturbed on any account. Erika, unfazed by the peculiarity of it all, helps Bella concoct magic potions as she sets in motion a personal mission: to be in charge and have every member of the household obey her, including Thomas the cat and a couple of other magical creatures.
The movie will likely disappoint if held in comparison to its predecessors, partly because of its starkly different aesthetic, but mainly because the story itself is underdeveloped. The narrative may have worked as a book aimed at very young children, but as a movie the weaknesses are too obvious. A few promising plot leads are introduced early on but none are followed through to a satisfactory degree. Then, a rushed ending abruptly attempts to tie lose ends but offers no explanations or closure. The film gets lost in Erika’s day to day and seems to forget the grand premise it sets up at the start. It also fails to include a real antagonist or a quest, which means that the action remains lukewarm.
In addition to all this, the main character has selfish motives and is rewarded for misbehaving, while her foster parents use their magic for bizarrely superficial purposes. Thus, even the opportunity for a moral lesson is lost. Considered in its own right, the flick makes for pleasant viewing and is overall enjoyable and even charming, but it feels too much like a drawn out prologue to a much longer story to be satisfying in itself.
Earwig and the Witch is released nationwide on 28th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Earwig and the Witch here: